A Mystical Journey
A light rain was misting the tips of the yew, showering its green needles with a silvery hue, when I was stopped in my tracks in the woods near my home, where often it is that I’ve taken to roam and sort through the events of my day, letting its problems and stresses fall away. I find the woods comforting, quiet and cool, magically transforming my fears by the rule of entering into stillness, which allows me to hear, sense, see and feel into other realms which in their content seem just as real as where I now stood, close by a yew tree, deep in the wood.
The air was expectant, full, awaiting discovery when I chanced to look down amid all the rain-soaked shrubbery and saw fibers of light covering the vicinity like a million spider webs trailing off into infinity. I breathed a full breath and let it out slow, and another, for I wanted to know, what is this phenomena that I’d chanced on today, that seems in this forest to magically underlay all the living greenery that is part of the scenery.
In the blink of an eye, the fibers faded from view and I was left wondering why they all withdrew. But as I questioned what it was that I’d seen, the answers welled up from that place in-between and I knew I’d encountered yet another gateway, to the wondrous realm of the dragons and fae. “Water, roots and fungi,” the words popped into my head, looping round and round, that’s just what they said. I stood very quietly, making not a stir, trying to understand what the words did infer. “Water, roots and fungi,” I was left with little doubt, that’s what I heard this forest world silently shout.
Over the years I’d discovered magic in forest, rivers and sea…a journey spiraling through time and space giving me, opportunity to encounter realms all manner of size in places I never expected to see them materialize. Now today, in this rain-graced space, I heard the words of the forest folk but saw not their trace. I leaned against the trunk of an old medicine tree…a hemlock, taller than most, much thicker than me. The yew was close by, mist welling up and dripping, drop upon drop quietly slipping onto the ferns and mosses, lichens and grass lining the trail on which I was to pass if it were not for the pull of the gateway and another opportunity to enter the land of the fae.
Feathery branches hung down in front of my face, absorbing the drops that fell upon this place, helping create an image destined for me, deep in the forest close by to the sea. A bold, woodsy fragrance ushered from the wetted wood, a crisp odor of evergreens, wild gingers and one I should be able to name for it reminded me of something familiar but not, something on the edge of almost forgot.
I instinctively looked to the forest surrounding me and felt at my back the support of the wise old tree. To my left which was east were two moss-shrouded humps with the trail meandering between what was left of their stumps; directly in front or south across the trail, a clump of green yew, their trunks papered with red-brown scale; west, to the right, here the snow-swelled river crowded its mossy shore, filling the glade with a rich, thunderous roar; that left the north or what was behind where it was I was to find, the purpose of this visit today of having been called forward by the fae.
When I looked above and into the tree, thick branches, criss-crossing as far as my eye could see created angular panes of dim light, amid a blur of green extending the full height into the soft-crowned canopy of the hemlock tree. Fungal beards draped pendulously on the limbs’ roughened bark, their sodden filaments weeping moisture off the matriarch, splashing upon a pile of rodent bones bereft of meat, lying partially buried in the mosses at my feet, stained a dark algal green containing a story now seen as a fractured skull, curved teeth and a line of bead-shaped vertebrae lying underneath, slowly being reclaimed by the elements of earth, dismantling crystalline bone salts in a rebirth.
I leaned back, stilled my thinking, identified my space and let my body sink into the hemlock tree’s grace. I could feel the fibers of my being push out and slip into the forest floor, and like dogs sniffing out who had passed this way before, I found the hemlock’s root hair and slid myself along side, relaxing even more and got ready for an extended ride into images fueled by magic. Immediately a familiar dynamic journey began and . . . I found myself intertwining with the roots of trees and shrubs pulsing along with earthworms and slippery, slimy slugs amidst the clutter and debris carpeting the forest’s floor underneath the trees, helping to enrich and enliven the subterranean soil by passing gases, ferrying water, and minerals as my toil while sucking in the sugars that fueled my form until I encountered the extra moisture of an autumn rainstorm. My Being filled with water and I pushed up through the duff, under a fir tree standing along a golf course’s rough.
Now I’m the titled “Agaricus augustus: The Prince,” growing on the border of forest and grass, a most civilized mushroom that once identified is hard to pass without picking and enjoying its essence, a fine aromatic almond, the quintessence of the spring and autumn “shrooming” season which my now standing with a knife in hand the very reason I am at the cutting board letting sacromagical words roll off my tongue trying to relate their meaning and practices in a manner that rung a bell of clarity inside my head rather than just words that my mentors once said.
Although analogies abound, my sphere is my kitchen space where I practice daily with crucible and flame, the alchemy of transformation or cooking by its other name; bringing together the earth, air, fire and water elements, treating them as holy sacraments. And as I watched the Prince saute under the lid of glass, it began to express its reason for being popular: a distinctive, spicy, almondy juiciness. A moment of aha-ness, a signature action I could recognize is that cooking a mushroom is a very wise alchemical analogy, part of the Mystery, happening right in front of me.
Our one common ancestor, an algal cell, gave birth to plants and animals as well; but then nature took a break, sparked a compromise and voila: an alchemical surprise giving humans and fungi a genetic sterol not know in the plant realm at all. So as I stood watching the slices shrink into pools of liquid gold, I got further into thinking how the birth of each mushroom naturally enfolds; by their processing alchemical Mercury, Sulfur and Salt, then passing along to me through the gestalt of their water, essential oils and body, what the myriad of mycelial networks connecting to the fir and the other kingdoms of nature surrounding me were, in co-evolution with the faerie realm helping to transform, the perfection of my Being, a spirit in human form.
And how if I had not been magically chosen to eat these particular allies in the fungal world today, the process the ‘shrooms would undergo in nature as they started to decay, which a few had already begun once exposed to the elements and the over-world sun. They would pass along their Princely spores in the guts of worms and bears encased in feces, ready to produce more if the fermentation conditions are right once they tap back into the under-world’s light adding my working thoughts, magical feelings and carings into the collective of the fungal networks’ healings and sharings. But I’ve chosen to cook mine instead and as a reproductive body they are probably dead, yet inside my gut, by the digestive process they transmute their signature use into blood, muscles, bones and nerves capable of fueling all senses, emotions and curiosity which serves me to explore the depths of magic, myth and space, perceiving the realms beyond which brings me back to this place, of standing up against the hemlock tree, deep in the forest near to the sea.
And where perhaps one day, my ashes will lie, sprinkled upon the damp mosses near to where the trail I often traversed crosses, returning my body’s ashened minerals spagyrically-honed into the same soil as the rodent’s algal-stained bones, which lie at my feet, where the faerie worlds of over and under meet.